happiness is an inside job

Um…well THAT was completely phenomenal! 

Now, before we dive into blog post #4 on the awesomeness + transformation that is Radical Acceptance, here are just a few updates!

Happy Camp was da bomb digitty.  

I’m still buzzing from it all!  You know, life gets busy and we can forget how necessary it is TO GO OUT AND PLAY.  What an awesome reminder of the power of dancing, singing, playing, getting dirty!, laughing, sweating, eating yummy food, drinkin’ pink wine, disconnecting from our norms and connecting with truly badass people.  It also totally reinforced the idea of ‘what we intend, becomes.’  Jessi Duley and I have dreamed of a Burncycle + Yoga collaboration for years.  And, with the buy-in of 30+ of the most incredible women, it became a RAD REALITY.

Yep, SO RAD!  And, rest assured, there will be more Happy Camps…

Just one more big ol’ thank you to everyone who made the weekend what it was…truly EPIC.

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IMPORTANT UPDATES

– NEW WEEKLY CLASS @ Yoga Pearl

Tuesday Vinyasa 6:30-7:30pm

– WDS is baaaaack…that unconventional convention of remarkable people from around the globe is gathering in Portland next month. The main stage tix are sold out but you can still join WDS Connect and it will be AWESOME.  When you DO grab a WDS Connect ticket be sure to sign up for YOGA on Aug 10 + 11.  I will be teaching for the sixth year in a row and THIS TIME…
It’s Sunrise Yoga atop the Hotel deLuxe with the LIVE music of Luke Williams.
Join US!

 Tennessee, we’re comin’ for you!

Hyfi and me are hittin’ the ROAD!  If you’re in TN or you know peeps who ARE,
please send them to Chattanooga for the Southern Bend Yoga Festival on August 27th!!

Festival Benefits the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.

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And now on to…RADICAL ACCEPTANCE.
It’s the goods, y’all.

If you missed blogs 1-3, no BIGGIE,
they are short and sweet and
it’s never too late to start the process of GETTING HAPPIER!

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happiness is an inside job…
and it starts with acceptance

What if, like in improvisational comedy, we always said – “Yes, and…” to LIFE?
One of the basic tenets of improv is this protocol that no matter what your fellow actors present you with, you never say no, negate, belittle or disagree.  Your job is to say, “Yes, and…”  Then, you accept the situation offered to you, regardless of where you originally wanted it to go, and you begin to add to the scenario.  When you say “yes, and…” it allows for anything to happen.  Everything becomes an opportunity, nothing is ever wrong and every situation is a place to grow from.

 

In our yoga practice, our bodies tell the truth of the present moment as we bring awareness to physical, emotional and subtle body sensations.  We begin to pay attention to energy levels, our emotional state, the breath, where we feel a stretch, and maybe even where we feel pain or discomfort.  We attune to what is real.  Like with improv, we can say, yes, and…  Yes, “my left shoulder feels achy today” and “I’m going to honor what I feel by forgoing my usual 95 chaturangas!”  We move forward with exactly what is showing up right here in the moment.

It is what it IS…today.

Our presence with what is is a powerful teaching.

Chapter 4 of Radical Acceptance reveals the need to accept all that is happening inside of us with the unconditionality we’d receive from one of our besties.  It asks us to say, “yes, and…”   So, rather than pushing away our experience we simply notice what is true and do our best to hold what we find with compassion.  As Pema Chodron says, “We are learning to make friends with ourselves, our life, at the most profound level possible.”  We’re looking to become friends with ourselves, acknowledge what’s real and accept it ALL.

As Tara points out, there’s something incredibly liberating about saying YES to the whole of our lives, as imperfect and messy as they may be.

While putting these ideas into action, I DO feel that liberation.  I feel the opening and spaciousness around emotions.  I feel the release.  But, I also feel the tremendous resistance!  I’m blown away by how often my thoughts take me to “no” rather than “yes.”  It surprises me how regularly I tend toward pushing the feelings away, even when writing these blog posts.  It can take me DAYS to get one out.  I write in fits and starts, I find all the distractions in the world: a handful of hazelnuts here, another glass of water there, a chat with my husband, oh and I must go give Maggie some belly scratches, time for a run, another downward dog…my attention deficit kicks in wholeheartedly, as I tentatively tip-toe around the perimeter of my truths.

With hesitance and also curiosity, I find myself looking back into the past, wanting to notice what still lives in me NOW from THEN.  Can I truly say YES to my past “failures” and stop pushing them away as if they never happened?  Can I accept, sit with and soften emotions around the experiences by simply saying yes?

YES.

Life experiences like: “taking a break” from college at the age of 20 (my parents called it dropping out!), or getting married at the ripe young age of 23 and then subsequently divorcing before turning 30…oh, and then having dramatic financial issues as a result of my divorce.  Ugh.  These situations all felt – and still feel – like big ol’ life failures.  Touching bases with them evokes feelings of embarrassment and shame.
In using the Guided Meditation below, The Power of Yes, I began exploring these feelings of shame by connecting with where I could feel the emotions in my body.  I started by saying “no” and noticing what that felt like viscerally.  My shoulders were rounded forward and the heart space felt tight.  My throat closed up.  My body collapsed in a bit and I felt the sensation of butterflies in my belly plus warmth on my cheeks — perhaps that was the embarrassment part.  I had the sensation of being stuck or trapped.  I even felt very alone.  And, then…a few breaths, a new approach.  I started observing the sensations, and saying “yes.”  Yes, just felt like I was consoling myself.  Everything unlocked.  It was like saying, “it’s ok, you’re ok. I love you no matter what.”

It was me being there for me as a friend.  Woah.  What a concept.

I’m pretty freakin’ hard on myself.  I think most of us are.  We think an average of 60,000 thoughts a day, 95% of them are the same day after day and 80% of them tend to be negative.

What a relief to know that we have the power to change that.  

Tara Brach says that “learning to pause is the first step in Radical Acceptance.”  The pause, I believe, gives us the opportunity to observe our current state.  What are we feeling?  What are we telling ourselves?  What is the truth?  We become aware, we can choose to interrupt the habitual pattern/thought/behavior and we can CHOOSE to be more compassionate with ourselves.   How beautiful to let go of the holding on to our perceived failures…to instead say YES and recognize the beauty of their teachings in our lives.

 

Now, not to go and wrap everything up in a pretty little bow, but it’s important for me to accept the truth of my perceived failures WITH COMPASSION and also acknowledge their teachings in my life!

there are no wrong turnings

 The truth is that because of my “failures,” I traveled the world, lived abroad, immersed myself in the French language and culture…oh, I eventually DID get a college education.  Also, every past relationship served to prepare me in some profound way to be ready for the love of my life, Michael.  And, well, I might have learned a thing or two about MONEY the hard way.

Lean into what is REAL.  Feel the truth of the sensations you experience.  Do your best to say “yes, and…” while accepting all aspects of yourself.  Look into the whites of other people’s eyes and recognize the sameness that exists.

We all experience fear, grief and shame.

Let’s acknowledge and invite these feelings in for a cup of tea.
I see you, fear.
I see you, grief.
I see you, shame.

I see you, Mara.

Now, how ’bout a cup of tea?

Or better yet, a chilled glass of pink wine on this summer’s eve!

Today, there are three awesome meditations.
My personal favorite is the last one of the bunch.
If you are a at work, if you are enjoying the summer sun,
just commit to yourself to do these when you know you have time.
Just try.

Say yes, and… 
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(From Pages 87-92 Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach)
 

Guided Meditation:  The Power of Yes

Sitting quietly, close your eyes and take a few full breaths.  Bring to mind a current situation that elicits a reaction of anger, fear or grief.  It may be a rift with your partner, the loss of a loved one, a power struggle with your child, a chronic illness, a hurtful behavior that you now regret.  The more fully you get in touch with the charged essence of the story, the more readily you can access the feelings in your heart and throughout your body.  What is it about this situation that provokes the strongest feelings?  You might see a particular scene in your mind, hear worlds that were spoken, recognize a belief you hold about how this situation reflects on you or what it means for your future.  Be especially aware of the feelings in your stomach, chest and throat.

In order to see firsthand what happens when you resist experience, begin by experimenting with saying no.  As you connect with the pain you feel in the situation you have chosen, mentally direct a stream of no at the feelings.  No to the unpleasantness of fear, anger, shame or grief.  Let the word carry the energy of no – rejecting, pushing away what you are experiencing.  As you say no, notice what this resistance feels like in your body.  Do you feel tightness, pressure?  What happens to the painful feelings as you say no?  What happens to your heart?  Imagine what your life would be like if, for the next hours, weeks and months, you continued to move through the world with the thoughts and feelings of no.

Take a few deep breaths and let go by relaxing through the body opening your eyes or shifting your posture a bit.  Now take a few moments to call to mind again the painful situation you’d previously chosen, remembering the images, words, beliefs, and feelings connect with it.  This time let yourself be the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha inviting Mara to tea.  Direct a stream of the word yes at your experience.  Agree to the experience with yes.  Let the feelings float, held in the environment of yes.  Even if there are waves of no – fear or anger that arise with the painful situation or even from doing this exercise – that’s okay.  Let these natural reactions, be received in the larger field of yes.  Yes to the pain.  Yes to the parts of us that want the pain to go away.  Yes to whatever thoughts or feelings arise.  Notice your experience as you say yes.  Is there softening, opening and movement in your body?  Is there more space and openness in your mind?  What happens to the unpleasantness as you say yes?  Does it get more intense?  Does it become more diffuse?  What happens to your heart as you say yes?  What would your experience be in the hours, weeks and months to come, if you could bring the spirit of yes to the inevitable challenges and sorrow of life?

Continue to sit now, releasing thoughts and resting in an alert, relaxed awareness.  Let your intention be to say a gentle YES to whatever sensations, emotions, sounds or images may arise in your awareness.

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Guided Meditation:  Facing Difficulty and Naming What is True

Mental noting deepens our attention so we are better able to meet painful emotions and intense sensations with a wakeful and healing presence.

Sitting comfortably, close your eyes and take a few full breaths.  Is there some situation or issue in your life that you are grappling with?  You might focus on an interpersonal conflict, financial pressure or stress at work.  Ask yourself, “How am I feeling about this?”  and bring a receptive presence to your body.  Pay particular attention to your throat, chest and stomach.  Is there tightness, pressure, heart?  Is there a word that describes your experience – sad, restless, shaky, afraid?  There is no need to strain, to run through a mental thesaurus to find the “right” word.  Just notice what word arises in awareness and mentally repeat it to yourself in as oft tone.  Sometimes there is no label that fits the mix of feelings that you are experiencing.  In this case you might name one of the more dominant elements in the mix.  The point is not to nail something down by getting it right, but to keep paying attention to the felt sense of what is real in this particular moment.

After naming your experience, gently ask yourself, while paying close attention to the sensations in your body, “Is this true? Does this word describe what I am feeling now?  If not, is there another word?”  Continue in this way – mentally noting your unfolding experience and checking your body to see what is most true in this moment.

You may get lost for a time in thoughts.  When you realize this gently note, “planning, obsessing, fantasizing,” and return your attention to your body.  Again sense and name any strong emotions or sensations that you become aware of.

Remember that labeling always remains in the background (5 percent), with the great majority of your awareness (95 percent) attending to your actual experience.  When done softly and lightly, noting can create a mood that is gentle and receptive.

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Guided Meditation:  Embracing Life with a Smile

The compassionate Buddha is often seen in statues and pictures with a slight smile as he embraces the ten thousand joys and sorrows.  When we meditate with the spirit of a smile, we awaken our natural capacity for unconditional friendliness.

Sitting comfortably, close your eyes and let the natural rhythm of the breath help you relax.  Take a few moments to let go of obvious places of tightness and tension.  Now, listening to the sounds and becoming aware of the space around you, allow the curved image of a smile to appear in your mind.  Notice how gentleness, kindness, openness and ease arise with the idea of a smile.  Sense the curved relaxed smile fill your mind and extend outward into space.

Now imagine a smile at the corner of both eyes and feel the sensations that arise there.  Allow your brow to be smooth, the flesh around your eyes to be soft and relaxed.  You might sense your eyes floating gently as if in a pool of warm water.  Continue to soften and let go through the whole area around the eyes.  Can you perceive a relaxed brightness there?

Now bring a small but real smile to your lips – half-smile of the Buddha –and allow the feeling to relax the muscles of your face.  Let the jaw be relaxed and loose, and let the tip of the tongue lightly touch the roof of the mouth.  Feel now how the eyes are smiling.  . . the mouth is smiling  . . .

Bring the image of a smile to your throat and notice what happens.  There might be a relaxing and opening.  IF there is a tightness allow it to be held in the sense of the smile.  Feel again the corners of your eyes smiling, your mouth smiling, your throat smiling.

Let the smile drift down into your chest.  Imagine the shape and feeling of a smile spreading through the area of your heart.  Whatever feelings might be there, allow them to float in the openness and kindness of a smile.  Continuing to relax, sense the smile of your heart sending ripples of ease throughout your body – through the shoulders, along the arms and down into the torso and legs.  Can you feel the openness and vibrancy of a smile at the navel, the base of the spine?

Allow yourself to rest in the spacious and kind awareness that is engendered by a smile.  When thoughts, sensations or emotions arise, can you sense how they are held with unconditional friendliness?  If your mind wanders or you find yourself tightening, you can gently reestablish the smile in your mind, eyes, mouth and heart.

With practice, you will find that the smile is a simple and powerful way to reawaken the heart at any moment of the day.  Rather than a full “smile-down” as described above, you can explore simply assuming the half-smile of the Buddha whenever you remember.


Elevate Yoga 200-Hour Teacher Training Program 
is accepting applications for the Fall 2016 session.
Space is limited to 18.
We begin October 5th!  Join us!

“There’s nothing else like Elevate Yoga Trainings in the country and I was so privileged to share the afternoon with Jill and the Elevate participants!  Sometimes we forget that teaching yoga is a powerful journey that gives us the opportunity to reach people really, really deeply.  Each class, each student, each moment counts.  Of course that is easily forgotten when we are teaching the 3rd class of the day and the 18th class of the week.  Thus the power of Jill Knouse, Elevate, and staying connected.”
David Romanelli – Yeah Dave!

Have you considered immersing yourself more deeply in the beautiful practices of yoga?

Have you thought about the impact you would have on the lives of others through teaching?

QUESTIONS?
I’m scheduling one-on-one calls to discuss details of the program and make sure it’s just the RIGHT FIT for you.
CLICK HERE NOW to schedule!

Hear from the graduates below…

what makes a great yoga teacher?

Click HERE for more information.
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“Elevate has been one of the most powerful things I’ve done for myself. It has cracked me open on so many important levels, while providing the structure and support to lovingly support me along the way. Jill’s journal assignments have been masterfully crafted and sequenced – you will find your edges, and that’s where the good stuff happens!

I had the pleasure of experiencing a one-on-one session with Jill. I haven’t met anyone as giving of themselves, their time, and their knowledge – an amazing opportunity to access all of her experience in a focused, personalized setting with that special Jill-style-love. Having found a like-minded group of travelers on this Elevate journey has been a wonderful addition to my world.”

-Danika Sandoz

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